[Photos by Jackie Nickerson for PAPER]
It's Kanye's birthday! Ye is 38 years old today, an age that would be pretty unexciting if it were not also a marker of the first year of his life in which Kanye was definitively more celebrity than musician.
Kanye turned 37 just a couple of weeks after his wedding to Kim Kardashian (May 24, 2014), and just under a year after the release of Yeezus (June 13, 2013). So for the past year, Kanye's life has mostly been defined by his family roles and relationships (as a father and husband), to perhaps an even greater extent than it has for the rest of his career (as a son). He's made being a dad cool (thank god), and is getting ready to do the parenthood thing all over again. He made being an empathetic, thoughtful son-in-law cool by convincing Kim to embrace Caitlyn.
Even his fashion career, which has taken center stage in-between 37 and 38, relates to his celebrity-ness. Although his recent fall collection got less than stellar reviews, his show produced the most social media engagement across Twitter and Instagram during all of NYFW.
Kanye's next album -- whether it's called So Help Me God, SWISH, or something else entirely, might not be all that good. (Sorry, but... it might not be -- "All Day" is great, but there's nothing suggesting a coherent project along the lines of 808s and Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Yeezus.) Is that really such a problem? It would be great to have another Kanye record that holds up to... well... pretty much any of the others, but at this point it might not be necessary. Because, approaching 40, Kanye doesn't really want to do too much musically these days, and that's okay. In his own words:
It's just harder for me to do music now, period. It's easier for people who focus on it all day and who are younger in their concept of what they want to do with it. I am not what I would consider truly a musician.This makes sense. Over the course of the past few years, and this most recent one in particular, appearance has overtaken reality as the most important thing in Kanye's life -- not that appearance means anything less than reality. And, having reached the level of unbelievable mass scrutiny that means any single thing he does can generate a news story, Kanye is now more consciously living his life in the public eye -- a celebrity from 38 to infinity. Good luck, Mr. West.